UK’s first grid battery energised in Orkney

Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD) has connected the UK’s first large scale battery to the local electricity distribution network on Orkney. The trial project will investigate how large scale batteries could play an important role in the release of capacity on the electricity distribution network and explore how the intermittency issues affecting renewable generation could be resolved.

The two megawatt lithium ion battery has been developed by Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and will be operated by SSE Generation. It is installed at Kirkwall Power Station and builds on the innovative work already carried out by SHEPD in delivering the world’s first Active Network Management scheme in Orkney in 2009.

The battery will operate through signals sent by the existing Active Network Management scheme by absorbing and storing excess renewable energy that would otherwise be constrained from the network.Since 2009, the Active Network Management scheme has allowed a significant volume of renewable wind generation to connect to the grid at a reduced cost to renewable generators and within a shorter timescale. 

The lithium ion technology used in the battery has been extensively proven at similar scale elsewhere in the world, including a similar trial run by Mitsubishi which has been continuously running for the past two years in Nagasaki, Japan, and is increasingly being used in electric vehicles in the UK. SHEPD will continue to work closely with Mitsubishi and SSE Generation throughout the duration of the trial.

SHEPD’s Head of Commercial Mark Rough said: “This exciting trial will provide valuable research into the viability of using batteries for electricity storage. This is likely to become increasingly important to help balance the variable output from renewable forms of generation as we move to a largely decarbonised electricity generation mix.”

He added: “Although the installation of the battery will not provide an immediate solution to the current constraints on the Orkney distribution network, it is hoped that in the long term the result of the studies will help demonstrate that batteries could provide a cost effective way of freeing up capacity on the network to help facilitate new connections of low carbon generation. “

Peter Clusky, Senior Manager Renewables and Head of Government Relations for Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe said, ” We are delighted to be working with our strategic partners SSE to bring this globally significant R&D project to Orkney. We are confident that this Orkney-based project will make a significant contribution to the further development of Lithium-ion battery technology. Mitsubishi is grateful for the ongoing support of SSE, NEDO, and Ofgem.”

Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth John Swinney said:  “Today’s announcement by SSE reinforces that Scotland is leading the way when it comes to developing and testing new ideas that may help us meet the electricity and energy needs of the future.  Smart grid technologies such as these being pioneered in Orkney are increasingly important as we move to a low-carbon economy.

“Scotland has an incredible wealth of energy resources from a range of generating technologies, capable of both meeting our energy needs and significant exports to parts of the UK and Europe. We have a responsibility to make sure our nation seizes this opportunity.”

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur welcomed today’s announcement. He said: “This is an exciting initiative and I am delighted to see Orkney leading the way in the development of energy storage options.  “Our islands have huge potential for generating renewable energy, but a lack of sufficient grid capacity is a growing problem. The active network management system has freed up capacity to allow many local projects to be connected to the grid in recent years, but new solutions now need to be found if Orkney is to realise its full potential in renewables. “I am certain that battery storage has an important role to play in ensuring we make best use of the resources at our disposal. While it is not a short term solution, the work being undertaken as part of this initiative could deliver significant and long-lasting benefits to Orkney and more widely.”

The trial of the battery is being funded by Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks Fund which supports projects by electricity distribution network operators to try out new technology, operating and commercial arrangements. The Orkney battery will help to provide an understanding of how batteries can support distribution networks.


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